DCI Blog

Rethinking Urban Amenities

By: Michael Higbee —

In 2013 Development Concepts partnered with National Apartments to create our first Community Garden project. We had vacant garden boxes with lots of sun and decided it might be fun to grow a few vegetables.   We were very surprised by the response from the residents at National Apartments, both young and old.  This endeavor was a great learning experience and very rewarding for me and provided an excellent community building activity for the residents at National.  Although I am proud of what we accomplished at National, (with plans to expand in 2014) that is not the topic of my blog.

Urban farming and fresh food options have been trending upwards lately and deservedly so.  The Community Garden at National really opened our eyes as to how planting, growing and maintaining a garden full of fresh produce works to build a sense of community, create relationships among neighbors and ultimately can act as an economic driver for those neighborhoods, especially in an urban setting.

Obviously, food is important but access to healthy food options are even more important to residents in lower income areas who have a harder time finding good, fresh produce within their neighborhood.    When buying produce at your local supermarket do you know where it came from, how long the journey was before it made it to your plate? Neither did I.  Now the reason for this post………Draft Seven Steeples Farm 2014Development Concepts has hopes of creating an urban farm with community garden boxes on a plot of land just 10 minutes west of downtown Indianapolis in cooperation with the developer for the former old Central State Hospital site, Central Greens, LLC.  It’s interesting how things work — a development company helping to fund a startup urban farm on an old abandoned mental hospital site.  It’s not a typical economic development initiative for vacant land, but during my short time here at DCI I’ve come to realize economic development isn’t always just buying property and building on it. Planning and developing a successful economic development project is really about figuring out how to take the space you have and make it as productive as possible for the community it serves.

Ultimately, the proposed “Seven Steeples Urban Farm” will be about 2 acres in size, but we hope to begin by utilizing just 1 acre.  We are ready to get our hands dirty and provide fresh healthy produce to a neighborhood where the options are very limited.  There are a lot of things that still need to be worked out to make this happen, but we are finalizing all the “Peas & Carrots” with the hope of starting to plant seed by late February in a greenhouse for transplanting in mid-March at the farm.

I will keep you posted on our progress to move forward with our “Seven Steeples Urban Farm” a truly long and arduous process that has proven to be quite an educational undertaking for an, at best, passive gardener.

I promise to keep you informed and share the good and the bad of this initiative over the coming months.  I’m sure there will be plenty of both!  Feel free to pass along any tips or suggestion you might have that would help make the Seven Steeples Urban Farm more successful, I certainly could use them.

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